Cyber Bullying

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008 Emily Halevy | CWK Producer

“I’d block them, but then they’d have another screen name and they’d be like ‘you’re a whore, you can’t get away from this’… It would just bring me to tears and I would cry because I couldn’t get away from it as much as I tried.”

– Erica Bryant, 18 years old


Everyday at school, Erica Bryant was harassed.  “They’d call me a slut, call me a whore.”

The bullying became too much, so her parents decided to have her home schooled.

“So, sure, a huge part of the problem was resolved in that she didn’t have to face that trauma everyday, she didn’t have to sit in the lunchroom by herself,” explains her mom, Linda Perloff, “but what we didn’t expect was the power of the Internet …we didn’t expect the instant messaging.”

Erica explains her frustration: “I’d block them, but then they’d have another screen name and they’d be like ‘you’re a whore, you can’t get away from this. It would just bring me to tears and I would cry because I couldn’t get away from it, as much as I tried.”

Experts say cyber bullying can be even more painful and pervasive than face-to-face harassment.

“You can never really get away from it,” explains pediatrician Dr. Ken Haller, “because even if you’re not on the Internet checking out what people are saying about you, other people are.”

But, experts say, there are ways to minimize attacks online.

First, make sure your child doesn’t post anything revealing.

“If they’re thinking, I’m just putting this out there for my friends to read, they don’t realize that anyone can pick this up and someone who might be a potential bully would say, ‘Ah! I’m going to use this. This is great’,” says Haller.

Experts say if the cyber bullying doesn’t stop- print the messages out and show them to the bully’s parents.  If the messages are threatening, go to the police.

“I always encourage parents to talk to your local law enforcement agency and run it by them,” says Judy Freeman, a school social worker.  “Many times they say, ‘well, we really can’t do anything,’ but if it’s - if it borders onto harassment or if there’s some threat involved, they will become involved.”

Erica is now in a new school. The harassment has stopped- at least for her.

“If I see it happen to other girls I’m not going to sit by and watch,” she says. “I’m going to get involved and put an end to it.”

Tips for Parents

Bullying in America has become an epidemic. In fact, with the advent of the Internet, bullies don’t even have to have physical contact with your child to torment him/her. Thus, parents are faced with the monumental task of monitoring the activities of children in a world of virtually unlimited sources of information. Although many parents attempt to regulate the access of their children to the Internet, that access is, in fact, nearly ubiquitous. Consider these facts regarding children, technology and the Internet:

Because bullying – including online bullying – can be such an emotional issue, experts say it is extremely important to open the lines of communication with your kids. This can include …

Also, watch for behavioral changes. Children who are suffering from teasing and bullying may try to hide the hurt. They become withdrawn from family and friends, lose interest in hobbies, and may turn to destructive habits like alcohol, drugs, and acts of violence.

While bullying, harassment and teasing are unfortunate aspects of childhood, you can help minimize these occurrences by raising non-violent children. The American Academy of Pediatrics cites the following tips for curbing hurtful behavior in your child:

References